I’m going to try and do something a little different with this post, and do a sort of semi-live blogging post.
Ford is flying me out to Dearborn, MI (Home of their headquarters) for their 2009 upcoming model event. What’s in store is pretty much a surprise to me at this point, so I’ll be blogging about the trip as it goes on. What I do know is that the itinerary says this:
Please note that Wednesday will be spent at the track and no shorts or open toed shoes are allowed.
Track time? Sounds awesome to me! I’ll be arriving in Michigan around 6pm, at which point I’ll make my way over to the hotel. They’re keeping me at the Dearborn Inn, which was originally built by Henry Ford to house dignitaries. With 23 acres, 3 restaurants, and much more, it should be a pretty nice place to crash for a night. When I arrive to the hotel, I’ll receive a detailed itinerary of events, so I’ll update when I find out more about what’s going on. I’m definitely looking forward to playing with Ford’s Sync system (powered by Microsoft), as I haven’t really seen one in person before.
In the meantime, bookmark this post as I will update it throughout the trip when I can. Hopefully there will be some internet access at the hotel! I have to go pack!
I’m about to head off to the airport in an hour, I should be reporting back in when I arrive to the hotel.
Just arrived at the hotel, it’s pretty nice. I walked in, got my room key, and walked up to my room, so I haven’t had a chance to explore yet. The hotel is old, but newly renovated, here’s a shot of my room:
My window faces the back of the hotel, where you can see they’ve setup an outdoor dinner event which starts in an hour. Before dinner there will be 30 minutes of cocktails:
I’m thinking about maybe renting a car after dinner and heading down to MGM Grand in Detroit (Most people don’t know there are casinos in Detroit) so I can get some gambling in…but I need to be up pretty early for tomorrow’s events.
Speaking of tomorrow’s events, I just got an itinerary. In the morning we’ll be doing breakfast, followed by a little overview with Ford’s Vice President of Product Development, Derrick Kuzak. Afterwards we’ll be doing a few different events, including some track time with a variety of Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury’s 2009 model year lineup. There will be final remarks by Mark Fields, President of the Americas, and then it’s back to Virginia.
The flight over here was good, we got here really quickly. I shared a limo to the hotel with a fellow that writes for publications such as Motor Trend, Automotive Engineering, and Popular Science, so we had an interesting conversation. I definitely feel like the newb
Stay tuned for further updates.
Just got back from our dinner event, had a blast. Basically shot the shit with a bunch of guys I’d only imagine talking casually with. The food was pretty good, there was a good variety of things like chicken, fish, salad, sausage, pulled pork…and open bar. Basically just met a bunch of people in the automotive industry and talked shop. I also had a chance to walk around the hotel a bit…here’s a few more pictures:
My cab just arrived to take me over to the MGM Grand Casino in Detroit, so I have to run. It should be a fun day waking up tomorrow at 6am…we’ll see what time I actually get to sleep tonight!
Just got back from MGM Grand. I really wanted to play Texas hold em, but they only had no limit tables…and I’m a limit kinda guy Ended up playing roulette the entire time, walked away up a little bit.
I also finally got a shot of the lobby of the hotel…very elegant looking:
It’s time for me to get some sleep since I have to wake up in 4 hours. Tomorrow should be a day of fun stuff, so stay tuned!
Awake now, running on maybe 3.5 hours of sleep!
Finally getting a chance to get on the computer, but don’t have any internet access, so I’m writing this now and will update live when I get back to VA. We just finished the first half of events as well as lunch.
After waking up this morning, I headed down to the restaurant in the hotel for breakfast. Afterwards, we all took a shuttle down to Ford’s testing grounds, which was literally across the street. They do all sorts of things here from wind tunnel testing to driving an F150 on a watered down test area (which they were doing!) to camouflaged vehicles that haven’t been released yet being tested.
The grounds are impressive, with all sorts of test tracks and facilities setup. Let me go through the order of events we went through.
The first event that we did was under a tent where we got to see a bunch of presentations from a few departments at Ford that targeted quality & safety. There was a couple neat things here worth highlighting:
This was a neat virtualization software Ford was using to train people how to spray paint better. They literally had a real spray gun that you would use on the screen, you wanted to get an even green color for a good, even coat of paint. Blue was too little, and red was too much. They could even make it so it just shows you how the paint would look, but then they would turn on the pressure map. Even something that looked perfect, could actually have imperfections in the thickness. While 100% of the exterior paint work is done robotically, about 10% of interior paint is still done by hand. This was a great way to ensure good work.
Most of us have seen how they do movements in sports video games like Madden and Tiger Woods golf…they use those motion sensing suits. Ford has applied the same technology where they could see how workers would use body movements to complete tasks, and then make things more efficient:
We saw a chassis from Ford Racing that was updated to improve NHRA safety standards after analyzing an accident that their own driver was in. Here were the improvements made to the chassis you can see in the picture below:
- The yellow area was widened and foam was added to the sides in order to better protect the head of the driver
- The blue area was added to make the area where the driver is more protective
- A sort of black box was added which records all of the information for the race. Ford Racing developed this box, and is now used by all teams in the NHRA.
The next event, we took out a ton of different vehicles, and just drove them around a cones course that was setup. Driving the Mustang Bullit was a blast, but I was really impressed by the Flex. The Flex is this unique vehicle that is an overall large crossover, but it handled much better than I could have ever imagined. I was also really impressed with the Lincoln MKS. First of all, it’s just a great looking vehicle. It has the luxury class, while also looking sporty and aggressive at the same time. I also got to drive the Escape hybrid, which was my first time experiencing a hybrid vehicle. On top of that, it was the first car I was in that used the Microsoft Sync system I mentioned earlier. I was impressed with two things. First of all, the Escape interior with the Sync system was just awesome. A buddy of mine used to have an Escape, and it was horrible, everything was in the wrong place, and it just looked cheap. What a change!? The other impressive thing was that the hybrid engine was capable of staying in electric mode up to 40mph (it used to be 25mph). That’s awesome for people like cabbies who are driving around in the city, I’m sure they could get some crazy mpg numbers.
Here’s a video of the course:
After the cone course we headed back in for lunch. While eating, Dan Kapp, Director of Advanced Research & Engineering came up to speak about Ford’s plans with something called EcoBoost. EcoBoost is a great movement for Ford, and I expect other manufacturers to do similar. EcoBoost is essentially the concept of using a smaller turbo’d engine that can put out more power, get better fuel economy, and have a smaller carbon footprint over a larger naturally aspirated engine. So the idea is that instead of buying a V8 F150, you would buy a turbocharged (EcoBoost) V6 F150 which has more power than the V8 and gets better fuel economy. That’s a win-win situation…and turbo cars are just simply fun to drive
The food was good too, they had a variety of salads, sandwiches, and awesome desserts…I’ll let you salivate with a snapshot of the desserts (different types of mousse and cheesecake lollipops):
Next it was on to the “Green & Smart” tent where Ford discussed how it was going more green, as well as highlighting some pretty neat new technologies they were embracing. The green aspect had a lot to do with EcoBoost, but also how they were using bio materials like soy beans and hemp to make things like the foam in your seats. One of the major benefits and things they are working towards is making a car last, but once it’s junked, it doesn’t just sit there and pollute, but rather it can completely decomposite within just 60-90 days. Neat stuff!
There were a few technologies that really stood out to me and I want to highlight:
I mentioned before that I was excited to play around with this. I got a chance to really get into the system and see everything it can do. All I can say is that I want it in my car. It is an insanely awesome and intuitive system, that I can imagine once you have, it would be hard to not have in your next car. It’s an entire multimedia center, from being able to play DVD’s, to playing music from basically any option (cd, dvd, aux input aka iPod/mp3 player, built-in hard drive, thumb drive, etc), to much much more. This next generation of Sync utilizes Sirius Travel Link, which is essentially a data feed from Sirius that can do things like give you real-time traffic, weather, sports score, movie listings, and even a list of the closest gas stations to you…along with the gas price there. You can easily find the cheapest gas near you!? There is just so much this system can do, and I can only recommend you get to your Ford dealership and play with it yourself to get the full experience. I don’t know why all cars don’t have something like this. The other cool thing is that it’s an actually an option in an entry-level Focus, whereas normally technology like this starts in high-end cars and eventually works its way down.
Blind Spot Mirrors
This is such a simple concept, and I have no idea why it hasn’t been integrated into all cars…but here it finally is. Blind spot mirrors. Between the name and the following picture, it requires no other explanation:
Next Generation Keypads
I’m sure you know how a lot of Ford vehicles have that ugly keypad that lets you unlock the doors. While it’s very functional, it doesn’t look too good. Ford has a Lincoln MKS on display that showed the next generation of the keypad, which is built into the b-pillar and uses touch sensitivity instead of standard buttons. It works like an iPhone, and only lights up when you touch it. Now it looks awesome, and it’s just as functional. While you can see it in the below picture, it was only because of the flash, in reality it blends in to barely noticeable when not lit up:
The last even was on the actual track, and was by far the most fun of the events. We had the same slew of vehicles (including a couple new ones like the Lincoln MKX and the Edge Sport (which handled amazingly well)), but this time were on a real road racing course.? I was able to really push the cars to the limits. Some of the drives we even had people that were on the product development team for the vehicle we were driving in the car. It was interesting to talk to them about developing the car I was actually driving. On top of everything, they had a couple of the upcoming F150′s on display (not for driving) which looks great in person:
Afterwards we closed up with a little speech from Mark Fields, President of Ford North & South America.
I had a great time at the event, and I can honestly say that I have a new appreciation for some of the Ford vehicles, what they stand for, the passion of their employees, and the direction they are taking the company.
Any other manufacturers care to invite me to their similar press events?? Just say the word